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Climbing Ta Cu Mountain Mui Ne, Vietnam

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After spending some nice, lazy and relaxing days at the White Sands Beach in Mui Ne, Vietnam, we figured we needed some exercise. And what is better than climbing a mountain when you get restless?! We had read in travel blogs about this Tà Cú (or Takou) Mountain with a big Buddha, so we booked a taxi and headed inland for the mountain.

Well, taxi and taxi, it was actually a rusty ramshackle open jeep! The driving turned out to be a complete nightmare in the crazy noisy traffic of Vietnam! The seats were terribly hard, and the noise from all the honking cars were so bad we couldn`t even talk or think or anything! It was a car ride from hell! 🙁

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Terrible car ride to Ta Cu Mountain, in an open rusty jeep, on the noisy scary roads in Vietnam.

Well we luckily survived the approximately one hour drive, and were really happy to arrive at the foot of Tà Cú Mountain. There is a cable car up the mountain, taking only 10 minutes. But us being ´Vikings´, of course we had to take the “hard” way up, by foot through the jungle path.

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My brother and his girlfriend (to the left) on their way up through the jungle.
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Walking through the jungle.

They stopped maintaining the path after they built the cable car, so in some places the jungle have taken over. The path was for the most part easy to walk on and still in good shape, but in some places it was a bit of a struggle to get through the jungle.

After about one hour walk, we finally reached the top! And what a great view!

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Me at the top of Tà Cú mountain, admiring the views.
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There was a huge restaurant at the top, with no people. A bit strange.

From the top, there was a road over to the Buddhas. Everything looked very new, but there were hardly any people there except us.

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My brother at the gate up to the Big Buddha.
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Amazing views, and funny looking roofs on the pagodas from the late 19th century.
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Very green and perfectly shaped Christmas (?!) trees at the top.

It was a very peaceful place, with lots of birds and lovely lush forest.

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We met some monkeys at the top, eating papaya.

On our way over to the Big Buddha, we walked passed several smaller Buddhas.

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White shiny Buddhas.

The white reclining Buddha Thich Ca Nhap Niet Ban (Buddha entering Nirvana) was impressively huge! At 59 meter long and 18 meter high, it is Vietnam’s biggest Buddha! And bright white.

We first thought that it was made out of one gigantic white stone or marble, and were totally blown away by the sight. But then we were told it is actually made of concrete, and painted white. Well, it is still impressive!

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The big Buddha, 59 m long and 18 m high, and bright white.
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Small Buddha (to the left) and the face of the giant Buddha (to the right).
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The 59 meter long Buddha really brightens up in between the green and lush jungle.
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Monkeys on the roof (to the left) and jumping “monkey” on his way down (to the right).

After the exhausting climb up, we decided to take the cable car down.

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The cable car, which we took down from the mountain.
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In the cable car on our way down.

Our climbing trip to Ta Cu mountain Mui Ne and the gigantic Buddha was definitely worth it, and was kind of like a little adventure for us with the walk through the jungle! It was really impressive to see the 59 meters long Buddha in the middle of the jungle. It is even larger than the famous reclining Buddha in Bangkok. That it turned out that the Buddha was not made of marble, but of concrete and painted white was a little bit disappointing, but it is still impressive.


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Travel Guides

We used the Lonely Planet`s Vietnam travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:

Vietnam Lonely Planet   Vietnam Guide Book   Vietnam Rough Guide   Vietnam LP


 

Have you ever seen a Buddha of this size? Please leave a comment in the comment area below! If you like this blog post, and find it useful, please share and like on social media! Thank you! 🙂

 

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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

13 Comments

  1. Wow, that Buddha is enormous! It looks pretty though.
    The biggest Buddha I have ever seen is the Leshan Dafo in Leshan, China. It’s supposed to be the tallest / biggest one in the world with its 71 meters in hight.

    Reply
    • A 71 meter tall Buddha! OMG! That must have been a spectacular sight! It is always impressive to think of how they have managed to build these giant Buddhas, especially since the Buddhas are usually located on mountains/ hills. It must have been hard work to get them built.

      Reply
  2. The rest of the story about Ta Kou Mountain: In 1971 I was with the Navy Seabees which is a construction military unit. Our assignment was to build a fire support base in the valley below the pagoda. Once you are standing by the railing looking at the amazing view if you look straight down the mountain that is where the fire support base was located. If you look to your left you will see a mountain top that is flat that is where the Seabees bulldozed the top of the mountain to build a radar site. In 1975 after the fall of Saigon the North Vietnamese forced the local villagers to dismantle all the buildings and they were most likely hauled to Saigon. We were hampered by land mines which delayed constructions. I have been back 7 times since the war to help out in orphanages. I photographed 8 little boys that would visit our camp during the war and I found them 36 years later for an incredible reunion. I see them every time I go back to Vietnam. I am now working on raising the funding to film a documentary about the Seabees at Ta Kou Mountain.

    Reply
    • Hi Frank!

      Thank you so much for your great comment! I did not know any of this, it was impossible to find any information about what had happened in this area during the Vietnam war. I am so glad to learn about all this. Must have been pretty scary and dangerous, especially with all the land mines. We only went on this short walking trip there, and I can only imagine how it must have been working there and trying to build a fire support base under the hot, humid and jungle-like environment with landmines. Must have been tough!

      It’s great to hear that you have been back that many times to help out in orphanages, and that you were able to find those boys again after so many years! Awesome story! I really hope you get to make that documentary film, would love to see it! We have been traveling in Vietnam on two trips, and the country`s history is both fascinating and tragic. And it is not that long ago! Please let us know if we can help you in any way with the film, or at least the promotion of the film when it is out.

      Thanks again Frank for commenting and telling us this great story! Really appreciate it!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  3. Hi Maria,
    In December Frank Harper of San Jose California, who wrote the above comments back in September, I–Dan Bower of Flint Michigan, and Ken Hettler of Rockford Illinois, returned to “Nui Ta Kou”, “Buddha Mountain”, where the three of us built a base camp in the valley over the edge of the railing that you are standing at in your pictures. This time, Ken and I were there for the first time since 1971, when we befriended eight little boys from the village about a mile from our camp called Ham Tan. We United States Navy Seabees called these kids “The Lost Boys of Ham Tan” back then.
    We were there to film our segment of the new Vietnam documentary, “Retracing Footsteps” where we had a reunion with the five remaining “Lost Boys”, who are now grandfathers and fairly well to do Vietnamese dragonfruit farmers. They had no idea that it was US who were returning to see them–just the Frank was “bringing along a cameraman and a couple friends”.
    One of them was 10 years old back in ’71, and was pretty special to me, I thought of him as my little brother back then. His name is Huong. I was the detachment fuel man, and the little fellow would run down the road to wherever I was fueling up a bulldozer, grader or scraper. When I was suddenly pulled out of Vietnam on April 6th 1971 to be the Special Escort for the body of my best friend who was killed in combat…I was never able to say goodbye to my young mascot. I would sometimes sit and wonder about him over the decades, wondering if he survived the war, perhaps got married, had children—, A series of unbelievable events brought us together again on December 9th 2014 in that valley below where you are standing on Buddha Mountain. And it is all on camera for the filming of the documentary. Huong had no idea that it was me who had returned until I was standing in front of him, and slowly brought up the photo I had been holding of he and I back in 1971 and pointed at us in the photo. The joyful, growing expression on his face as he began to realize it was really me—is priceless.
    It was surreal…like a dream I had one night. It has been six weeks since my return to America, and even now it is hard to return to normal life with my fine wife of 42 years and my daily routines.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your photos in this essay. It all flooded back into my mind when I viewed them: the restaurant area where we would spend each evening reviewing the days’ High-Def video on the laptop. The rocky trails and the hundreds of old steps leading up to the Pagoda complex and farther and farther up to the ultimate—the HUGE Reclining Buddha. Even our large comfortable two-bed rooms we stayed in for three nights just 1 floor below the restaurant.
    When you get time, go over to the two sites I listed on Facebook just above this letter. Inside the Retracing Footsteps site, click on the link below the heading that says, “Photos” and it’ll take you deeper into the site. In there, you’ll see pictures taken in the plain below the mountain that were taken in 1971 when we Americans were there a lifetime ago. Highest regards to you! —Dan Bower

    Reply
  4. Maria, the sites I mentioned above do not appear to have come through in the headings of my letter. Both are Facebook sites…do a search on Facebook using the keywords, “Retracing Footsteps” and the other is my own site which has more, “Daniel M Bower”.

    Reply
  5. I am planning on doing this hike too if the weather is ok. I am a budget traveler. Was the taxi that you took a low price. I also read somewhere that public bus #4 goes there. What is the best option on a budget.

    About the jungle path. Is the path easy to find? I imagine they try to funnel people to the cable cars. How long did it take you to walk up? You are the only writers I found that hiked all the way up!

    Reply
    • The motel rooms up at the Pagoda complex were around $20 per night–VERY big, nice and air conditioned. Frank Harper (above) walked the trail from down below, and he knows how much the vans cost locally and to the mountain from Saigon.
      In Dec 2014 all three of us old vets are in our mid-60’s and were able to get around good, even when we took the unmarked trail from the pagoda over to Radar Mountain in the distance–about a mile each way. During the war we called it, “Humping the Boonies”. Frank hired two young Vietnames men at the complex to lead the way swinging macheties. So the trip wasn’t too bad!

      Reply
    • Hi Nick,

      The taxi ride from our hotel in Mui Ne to the Ta Cu mountain and back was cheap compared to Europe, about 35 us$ for all three of us. But I bet the public bus is even cheaper, especially if you are one person. The hotel organized the taxi for us, and it was awful – an open rusty car. It was really noisy. So I would not recommend that kind of transport. The taxi ride took about one hour.

      The jungle path is quite easy to find. We asked locals and people working at the cable car ticket office, and they gladly pointed out the directions. Once we found the start of the path, it was very easy to follow with stone steps some parts of the way. It took us a couple of hours to walk up to the top, with a few breaks to drink some water along the way. It was a very nice hike, and a good work out. We took the cable car down. We paid about 6 us$ per person for the cable car ticket.

      Have a nice hike to Ta Cu Mountain! Hope you enjoy it and that the weather is ok. Remember to bring water, and wear sunscreen and good walking shoes.

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
      • Thanks I hope so. I will do that to find the trail head too, and bring plenty of water. It does sound a lot better to use the bus. I think staying in Phan Thiet will help me out too. Much shorter bus ride.

        Reply
        • Also, after staying up on Ta Kou, we followed our plan and moved to the Mom da Chim Resort on the coast about 15 kilometers or so from the mountain. That is 1st class all the way! Very nice room is about $65 per night, and when we were there from around Dec 8 through Dec 12, 2014, the weather tends to be perfect: 80-85 degrees, all sun AND because it’s in December, a couple nights we four were the only ones at the resort. Also, they have nice late model vans for taxi, and you can rent motor bikes for the day.

          Reply
  6. THANKs guys for the great article about Tu Cu. We want to go with our dog, do you know if they allow dogs in Tu Cu mountain? Thanks so much

    Reply
    • Hi Camille,

      Thank you! So glad to hear that you liked it and find it useful!

      Hmm, I actually don’t know if you are allowed to bring your dog to Tu Cu Mountain, but I would think so. I don’t know why not as it is open-air and it is like walking in nature. But you might want to check with the ticket office when you head there.

      Have a great tip to Tu Cu Mountain, hopefully with your dog!

      -Maria-

      Reply

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